Parables: The Weeds in the Field
How can we understand Jesus’ parables?
Why does Jesus speak in parables? Remember what we’ve already seen in this chapter (Parables: The Sower) – Jesus tells the parables to make a distinction, between those who hear and don’t understand, and those who understand as well.
How do we go about understanding what the parable means? What did the disciples do? (v26) – They asked Jesus what it was about. When we come to Jesus’ parables we have to start by asking what the topic of the parable is. Here this is one of a set of parables told to show what the kingdom of heaven (v24) is like. Jesus described the previous parable as being about the kingdom of heaven (13v11, 19) – and indeed all of his teaching. Its message is about how we hear and respond to the word of the kingdom. And this parable is continuing that topic of the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom of heaven – what does Jesus mean? Work through the following references in Matthew’s gospel to see different aspects of how it’s portrayed. You’ll see Jesus is constantly talking about it.
- 3v1-2: firstly it was the focus of John the Baptist’s preaching
- 4v17, 23: Jesus’ message was exactly the same – ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’. This is what his gospel (good news) is all about
- 5v3, 10: it belongs to the poor in spirit and the persecuted
- 5v19, 20: who enters the kingdom of heaven and who is great in it
- 6v33: something to be sought
- 7v21: not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter it
- 8v11, 12: many will come from every direction and sit in it
- 10v7: the message to be proclaimed by Jesus’ disciples as well
- 12v28: it has already come!
So, we can see the focus of Jesus teaching about the kingdom of heaven centres around what it means to be part of it. The kingdom of heaven is made up of people.
The other thing we can see running through here is that while the kingdom of heaven has come already, it has a completion and fulfillment which is in the future. It’s important to bear this in mind as we work through these parables.
What is the story of this parable?
We can go through the story and see how it develops, as this is one of the first we again have some help to understand the sort of pictures Jesus is using as Jesus explains the parable to the disciples
v24 – Here we have the Son of Man sowing the sons of the kingdom in the world (see v38)
v25-28 – Here we have the devil sowing the sons of the evil one into the world (see v38-39)
v29-30 – Here we have a picture of the end of the age and the activity of the angels (see v39)
It’s on this last part that Jesus’ explanation of the parable is focussed.
What is this parable intended to teach us about the kingdom of heaven?
How could we sum up the main point Jesus is making about the kingdom of heaven? Being among it doesn’t mean being part of it (v25, 41). Some will be gathered out of the kingdom and removed. Jesus’ visible kingdom is seen in the church, those who acknowledge him as king.
But within it are these two groups – what does he call them? (v38) – these are the sons of the kingdom, but also the sons of the evil one. The genuine article and those who don’t belong there at all.
How do you tell today which are genuine and which aren’t? Jesus is quite clear that there is a difference. Those who are not genuine have certain features: (v41) – those that offend, implying tripping up those who are genuine. Those who are practicing lawlessness – living without obeying Jesus’ words and laws
What’s the difference in the future? While there are features you can see today there seems to be so much in common. They’re both plants in the same field after all. But eventually there is complete separation. The separation doesn’t happen until the end. There are 2 destinations: God’s wrath, or God’s glory (v42-43)
Why does Jesus want us to know this? For understanding, warning & encouragement. Understanding – so we can understand what to expect in the church. Christ’s kingdom is not yet perfect, there will be those who don’t really belong in it but who make themselves part of it. There is no perfect church. Warning – so we can look out for the signs of offending and lawlessness firstly in ourselves and make sure that we are genuine crops. Encouragement – it won’t always be like this, the kingdom will be completed and all that offends and seeks to destroy it (from outside or within) will be removed.
What does this build on what we learnt from the previous parable? There are those who hear and fall away; but here we see that there are also those who hear and seem to continue, but who still are completely fruitless. Being among it doesn’t mean being part of it.